With the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) introducing organics collection late this summer within the City of Port Alberni – part of the new roadside 3-stream (organics, recycling and garbage) automated cart collection service – it is important that residents understand what is and is NOT allowed in your organics cart. Items such as compostable plastics will not be accepted in your organics cart and here’s why…
What is compostable plastic?
Compostable plastics are manufactured from plant-based materials but look and feel like conventional plastics. You’ve likely seen examples of these in plastic bags or cutlery advertised as “compostable.” Compostable plastic can be derived from plant or petroleum-based feedstocks, or a mixture of both. The material utilized to make compostable plastic must be capable of breaking down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as organic material. Compostable plastic must also disintegrate and become indistinguishable within the compost mix and must not leave any toxic material behind.
If they are compostable, why can’t they go in the organics cart?
Often compostable plastics do not decompose at the same rate as other organic materials (i.e., household food waste, yard trimmings, or soiled paper products). For example, household food waste treated in municipal composting facilities typically degrades completely after 20-40 days at 60 °C. By comparison, compostable plastics may require more time and at a higher temperature to break down.
Compostable plastics are designed to break down in the conditions of an industrial composting plant or an industrial anaerobic digestion plant with a subsequent composting step. The system that our local processor, Earth, Land, & Sea is utilizing is not an appropriate system to fully break down compostable plastics. To lower the risk of potential contamination, reduce screening and separating time, compostable plastics will not be accepted in the organics cart.
If it is plastic, why can’t it go into my blue recycling bin?
Unfortunately, compostable plastics end up contaminating the blue bin as well. Recycling facilities are not set up to separate compostable plastics from traditional plastic recycling as they look identical. Compostable plastics don’t behave like recyclable plastic, so they do not withstand recycling procedures.
How can you tell if a plastic is compostable?
Items made of compostable plastic must be labelled. The label is often found on the bottom of cups or on the handle of utensils.
Can I use a compostable or biodegradable plastic bag to line my curbside organics cart or my kitchen catcher bin?
No plastic bags (compostable, biodegradable, or conventional) will be accepted in the curbside organics program. You don’t need to use a liner at all – but if you would like one, you will be able to use a plain paper bag, cardboard, or newspaper to line your cart. The ACRD is working with local retailers to ensure that there will be useable options available for those who would like liners.
The idea of “compostable plastic” is hopeful but it does not address the real source of our waste management challenges: overconsumption and excess waste. In the spirit of “Restore Our Earth”, the 2021 theme of Earth Day it is important that people reduce as much as possible the use of all types of single-use plastic, including compostable.
Visit www.letsconnectacrd.ca/organics for more information about the Organics Collection Service and to ask questions. Questions about sorting? Download the free Sort’nGo app from your mobile app store. You can also check out the Facebook Page “Alberni Valley Waste Reduction Education” which has weekly tips and updates for the valley.